2022 Elections

Second Verse Same as the First: Four of Five JeffCo Commissioners Have No Known Election Challengers

Four of the five Jefferson County Commissioners have no competition in the primary or general election, including (left to right) commissioners Joe Knight, Lashunda Scales and Jimmie Stephens. (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

The next Jefferson County Commission will look very much like the current one as four of the sitting five commissioners have no challenger in the upcoming primary or the general election.

Qualifying for the May 24 party primary elections concluded Friday with four of the five incumbents facing no opposition. District 2 Commissioner Sheila Tyson was the lone exception; Steve Small qualified to face her in the Democratic primary.

None of the commission seats has a qualifier from the other party in November’s general election.

Barring a successful independent or third-party challenge, Republicans Jimmie Stephens (District 3), Joe Knight (District 4) and Steve Ammons (District 5) and Democrat Lashunda Scales (District 1) will remain in office another four years. Stephens and Knight were initially elected in 2010. Scales, Ammons and Tyson were first elected to the commission in 2018.

Commissioners questioned Tuesday said the lack of challengers is an endorsement of the work they’ve done.

“It says that all five commissioners – not just four – all five commissioners have been working for the betterment of their communities,” said Stephens, the commission president. “We all run in districts, and everyone within those districts are extremely satisfied. They did not see a need to change.

“That means that we as a commission are working together to get things done to improve the quality of life for our citizens in Jefferson County,” he continued. “That is indeed what we were elected to do.”

Knight said the county “started out upside down in the ditch” when he and Stephens were elected. In November 2011, Jefferson County filed for what was then the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

“We got it out, we got it back on track, went through what we went through, and things are progressing well,” he said. “Now we’re at a point to where with the USFL (and) World Games, we’re able to market the Birmingham/Jefferson County area even more.”

Knight said now that the county is doing better, “evidently, those who maybe looked at our races said, ‘We can’t beat them.’ To me, it’s satisfaction that you’re doing the right thing, you’re doing your job well, and people have confidence in you.”

Scales said the 2018-2022 commission’s legacy will be its “relentless response to the COVID 19 pandemic.”

“That response was unprecedented and most crucial to the survival of our county,” she said. “The timely actions of the commission proved to be critical to the survival of Jefferson County. The commission’s commitment to the survival of the largest county in the state of Alabama proved that collaborative efforts on all levels of government were realized in making the difference between life or death in the citizenry that we serve.”

Small, the lone commission challenger, was appointed to the commission in 2001. He subsequently ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2002, 2010 and 2014.

“You always have a perennial candidate that will come in and perhaps is ambitious and wants to be a commissioner,” Stephens said. “What would a candidate for commission do that your current commissioner does not do? How do you differentiate that?

“In four of the five districts, there was no differentiation,” he said. “In (District 2), there was someone that appeared to be very ambitious, but I challenge them to do something more than their current commissioner’s doing. There is no way that they can be more engaged in their community (than Tyson).”

Most County Offices Have Competition

Sheriff Mark Pettway, who was the first Black elected to the office in 2018, faces three challengers in the Democratic primary – Wilson Hale, Kareem Easley and Felicia Rucker-Sumerlin.

The winner among the Democrats will face Republican Jared Hudson in November. He has no opposition in the primary.

Three Democrats are vying for the District 3 seat on the Jefferson County Board of Education – Rochelle Gaston Malone, Robert L. Mardis III and Stephanie Floyd. The winner will face Republican incumbent Donna Pike or challenger Ray Torrillo.

Board President Carita Venable faces Tarji Ransaw in the Democratic Party primary for the District 5 seat.